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Abortion in Australia, explained: from the law in each state, to how much it costs.

One in three Australian women will have an abortion at some point in their life. And polling consistently shows that the vast majority of Australians — around 80 per cent — believe in a woman’s right to choose that option.

Yet there are still several barriers that make this safe, common medical procedure difficult to access for tens of thousands of women.

To start with, Australian abortion laws are determined at a state level. This means that how and when a woman can lawfully obtain an abortion varies around the country. For examples, while most states have decriminalised abortion, in New South Wales it remains a criminal offence.

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The availability and cost of abortion services also varies hugely, forcing some women to travel long-distances — even interstate — to receive necessary care.

Here’s what you need to know about abortion in Australia.

Types of abortion: medical vs surgical.

Women typically have two options for abortion, depending on the gestation of the pregnancy.

Medical abortion is available to women within the first nine weeks, i.e. less than 63 days from the first day of their last period. It involves taking two prescribed medications over two days – mifepristone (RU486) and misoprostol – in order to end the pregnancy. Medical abortion is available via private clinics, plus some GPs and public health services, and is successful in 93-98% of cases.

Some providers also offer medical abortion via telehealth, in which a patient in the early stages of an unwanted pregnancy consults with a doctor over the phone/video call. The patient will be sent for a blood test and ultrasound, and if eligible will then have abortion medication delivered to them via courier. This service is not available in the ACT or South Australia, and additional regulations apply in certain states.

Surgical abortion is a routine day-surgery procedure that is most commonly performed in the first trimester (up to 12–14 weeks’ gestation). The patient is placed under anaesthetic, and the pregnancy tissue is removed from the uterus using a gentle suction. The procedure, which is performed at a clinic or hospital, is considered one of the safest surgeries in Australia and is roughly 98 per cent effective.

How much does abortion cost in Australia?

The cost of medical and surgical abortions will vary depending on a number of factors, including: which state you live in, whether you are in a rural or metropolitan area, whether or not you have private health insurance, and the gestation of the pregnancy.

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Though it’s up to individual states and territories to set their own laws on abortion, some funding for medications and services is allocated at a federal level through Medicare and the Pharmaceutical Benefits Scheme.

This means that if you have a valid Medicare card, you can receive a benefit of up to 75 per cent for some aspects of the service. However, according to Children by Choice, a not-for-profit unplanned pregnancy information and support service, out-of-pocket expenses are climbing. Queensland women, for example, can face a bill of between $250 to $4000, depending on the time that’s passed since conception and on their location.

Marie Stopes Australia, one of the country’s largest abortion providers, currently quotes the following minimum prices for patients with a valid Medicare card:

  • Medical abortion in-clinic – from $440, including the cost of blood tests, ultrasounds, follow up appointments and treatments.
  • Medical abortion by phone – from $290, not including medication.
  • Surgical abortion – from $440.

But is abortion even legal? Here’s a breakdown of abortion laws in each state in 2019.

Abortion law in Queensland

Abortion is legal in Queensland up to 22 weeks. Beyond 22 weeks, the law states that two medical practitioners must agree that the procedure should be performed; this decision must take into account relevant medical circumstances, as well as the woman’s current and future physical, psychological and social circumstances.

ACCESS: Services are available via private clinics in Gold Coast, Brisbane, Sunshine Coast, Rockhampton, Townsville and Cairns, and a small number of GPs. For more information, speak to your doctor or call Children by Choice on 1800 177 725.

Abortion law in New South Wales

In NSW, ‘unlawful’ abortion is a crime punishable by up to 10 years in prison for both the woman and the doctor performing the procedure. However, thanks to precedents set by previous cases, medical practitioners a generally able to lawfully perform abortions if they believe there’s a serious danger to the woman’s mental and physical health. Economic and social pressures can also be factored in here.

ACCESS: Mostly through private clinics in Sydney and some regional areas, with limited public provision. For more information, speak to your doctor, or contact Family Planning NSW on 1300 658 886.

Abortion law in Australian Capital Territory

Abortion is a legal and regulated health service in the ACT, as long as it’s provided by a medical professional in an approved medical facility.

ACCESS: For more information speak to your doctor, or contact Sexual Health and Family Planning ACT on 02 6247 3077.

Abortion law in Victoria

In Victoria, abortion is legal up to 24 weeks. Beyond 24 weeks, two medical practitioners must be in agreement that an abortion is appropriate. This decision must take into account the woman’s medical circumstances plus their current and future physical, psychological and social circumstances.

ACCESS: Services are available mostly via private clinics, however some public services are available in Melbourne. For more information, speak to your doctor, call 1800 My Options on 1800 696 784, or contact Family Planning Victoria on (03) 9257 0100 .

Abortion law in South Australia

Abortion is legal in South Australia if two doctors agree that a woman’s physical and/or mental health endangered by pregnancy, or for serious foetal abnormality. The law states that these abortions must be carried out in a hospital or prescribed facility.

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Unlawfully obtained abortions remain a crime for both the woman and the doctor performing the procedure.

ACCESS: Services are available from the Pregnancy Advisory Centre, most public hospitals in metropolitan Adelaide and also in some regional areas of South Australia. For more information, speak to your doctor, visit the SA Health website or contact the Pregnancy Advisory Centre on (08) 8243 3999. (Note: South Australian law requires a woman to be a South Australian resident for at least two months in order to access a termination in that state

Abortion law in Tasmania

Abortion is lawful on request up to 16 weeks gestation, and beyond that point when two doctors (including one who specialises in obstetrics or gynaecology) agree that it’s a risk to the woman’s physical or mental health. Economic and social circumstances must also be taken into account when assessing that risk.

ACCESS: A single provider for surgical abortions exists in Tasmania. Medical termination of pregnancy may be available through your doctor and other medical services in Tasmania. For more information, speak to your doctor, visit the Tasmanian Public Health website or call Family Planning Tasmania – Hobart on (03) 6228 5244.

Abortion law in Western Australia

In Western Australia, abortion is legal if performed before 20 weeks. Beyond 20 weeks, the law states that two medical practitioners from a panel of six appointed by the Health Minister have to agree that the mother or unborn baby has a severe medical condition that justifies the procedure. These abortions must be performed at a facility approved by the Minister.

There’s an extra condition for girls under 16 years of age in WA. They need to inform one parent/guardian and be given the opportunity to participate in counselling before an abortion can be performed. However, she may apply to the Children’s Court for an order to proceed with an abortion if it’s not considered suitable to involve her parent(s).

ACCESS: The majority of providers are in the Perth area. A referral is required. For more information, speak to your doctor, or call Sexual Health Quarters (formerly Sexual and Reproductive Health Western Australia) on (08) 9227 6177.

Abortion law in Northern Territory

Abortion is legally available in the Northern Territory up to 14 weeks if a doctor agrees it is reasonable, and up to 23 weeks if a second doctor approves.

Beyond 23 weeks, the law is unclear. But the legislation stipulates that a pregnancy can be terminated if a doctor deems the woman’s life is at risk.

ACCESS: Services are available in Darwin, Alice Springs and Palmerston, and medical abortion may also be available through GPs or Aboriginal Community Controlled Health Services. For more information, speak to your doctor, visit the NT Department of Health website, or call the Family Planning Welfare Association on (08) 8984 0144.

For more information on abortion law in each state visit the Children by Choice website.

The information provided above should not be taken as a substitute for medical advice from a qualified medical practitioner. Please speak to a qualified medical practitioner if you are considering an abortion, or if you have any questions relating to the information above.

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